Gussie Hammock is a retired factory worker who has dedicated her services to the Prosecutor’s Volunteers for Victims Program since 1996. Service to the community is not just volunteer work to her; it is something she enjoys. Serving victims of crime at various levels of the criminal justice system is a passion that Hammock takes to heart.
One of her main roles is to make personal contact with crime victims in both misdemeanor and felony court cases. This initial contact makes victims aware of the resources available to them. She coordinates closely with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office to ensure victims are reimbursed for medical bills accrued as a result of the offense. She also informs victims about community support organizations that provide protection through domestic violence shelters, local grief supoprt systems, and Rape Crisis Intervention groups just to name a few.
The most meaningful aspect of volunteering for victims is to let them know that someone cares about their welfare during this most traumatic time of their life. Hammock’s selfless efforts impact the staff as well. The courtroom can be very busy while trying to expeditiously handle every care. She has assisted the attorneys by informing them about the victims’ concerns regarding their trial. This better prepares the prosecutor to make a recommendation that includes the victim. Issues involving bond amounts, No Contact Orders, or plea bargains are all important to the victim’s perspective of the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
Gussie Hammock is also an active advocate in Parents of Murdered Children (POMC), a nonprofit national support organization that offers support to others during the grief process of their loved one. Her involvement as a victims advocate commenced shortly after her husband of 20+ years was murdered in 1992. “Ms. Gussie,” as her friends and colleagues call her, energetically commits herself to each homicide victim’s family by attending trials, bond hearings, and parole and clemency hearings.
The Remembrance Program is a component of POMC in which survivors receive letters of support from advocates. Hammock writes “thinking of you” notes coinciding with the anniversary date of the passing of person’s loved one. She also assists in coordinating a candlelight vigil on the National Day of Remembrance. This day memorializes the life of the murdered family member. Hammock actively participates in the Department of Community Punishment’s Victim/Offender Program. She shares her personal experiences caused by crimes such as thefts and burglaries to non-violent offenders. The goal is to give the offender the victim’s viewpoint and to reduce the recidivism rate.
During the trial process, the defendant’s rights are heavily protected while the victim often feels defenseless against the justice system. It is at this most vulnerable time that the assistance of a concerned citizen becomes a valuable component in the process of healing. Hammock’s unwavering service to the community affects everyone. It is a comfort to know that when crime strikes, a person like Gussie Hammock is in the victim’s corner.